Report Highlights LA Park Needs (CA)

Los Angeles-Two-thirds of children 18 and under in Los Angeles do not live within walking distance of a public park, according to a study released today by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation organization.

Children living within the city of San Diego are equally unlikely to live near a park, but San Diego County residents outside the city limits fare better, according to the report, No Place to Play: A Comparative Analysis of Park Access.

“Los Angeles is facing a parks crisis, and the consequences of inaction could be severe: greater incidence of childhood obesity and diabetes, lost economic opportunity, and higher crime rates,” said Will Rogers, President of the Trust for Public Land. “Communities can make progress on parks, and step one is recognizing that open space is just as vital to healthy cities as are roads and bridges.”

The Trust for Public Land study compared the number and percentage of children living within one-quarter mile of a park-what’s considered to be walking distance-in seven major metropolitan areas. With only one-third of children living near open space and 1.8 million children countywide lacking easy park access, Los Angeles fared worst among the areas evaluated. Boston was rated best in the study, with 78 percent of children living within walking distance of a park or other open space. Newark (71 percent) and New York (59 percent) ranked comparatively well.

“From a public health perspective, the benefits of parks are clear,” added Dr. Linda Rosenstock, Dean of the UCLA School of Public Health. “Children who live near parks are more likely to exercise, and kids who exercise are less likely to develop a wide range of preventable diseases. More parks help create healthier kids and a healthier community.”

Additional detail about the health and other public benefits of parks are described in a TPL White Paper, “Parks for People: Why America Needs More City Parks and Open Space,” available upon request or at

Within the Los Angeles area, the study found that park-poor neighborhoods are concentrated in the central and southern sections of the city and in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Those areas of Los Angeles also have the highest concentrations of children under 18. “It’s an ironic fact of life in Los Angeles: parks are located where children aren’t,” said Larry Kaplan, Director of TPL’s Parks for People Los Angeles program.

No Place to Play notes that California’s Proposition 40, which was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2002, created a $2.6 billion fund for environmental projects throughout the state and sets aside funding for urban parks creation. However, the report notes that Proposition 40 funds are being depleted rapidly, which would prevent park-poor communities from collecting their share of matching funds unless they develop and submit park acquisition plans quickly. Park projects developed with private sector partners receive special preference under Proposition 40 rules.

The report concludes that meaningfully increasing access to parks is possible, citing recent successes in cities like Maywood, where the Trust for Public Land is completing a seven-acre park acquisition project adjacent to the Los Angeles River. The Riverfront Park, which will be developed by the city, will double park acreage in Maywood, a low-income community located in southern Los Angeles County.

About No Place to Play

No Place to Play is based on population data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and parks information obtained from local governments. Staff geographers at the Trust for Public Land compiled the data using advanced Graphical Information Systems (GIS) technology that enables mapping and analysis on a scale as small as a single city block. The number of metropolitan areas in the report was limited by the lack of available data from parks departments. TPL encourages additional municipalities to collect the kind of highly-detailed information needed to make GIS analysis possible, and it plans to include additional cities in future editions of No Place to Play.

Note to Graphics Editors: Through its GIS software, TPL has generated side-by-side maps that compare park access in Los Angeles to park access in other metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide a compelling graphic illustration of the parks crisis in Los Angeles and may be reprinted upon request. TPL can also generate customized maps and other graphics focusing on specific regions or neighborhoods, if desired.

About the Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, community gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural places. Since 1972, TPL has worked with willing landowners, community groups, and national, state, and local agencies to complete more than 2,700 land conservation projects in 46 states, protecting more than 1.9 million acres. TPL has helped states and communities craft and pass 192 ballot measures, generating over $35 billion in new conservation-related funding.

TPL’s work depends on the generous support of donors and volunteers who share our mission of conserving land for people to create more livable communities. The Wall Street Journal’s SmartMoney magazine, Money, Forbes, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy have all rated TPL among the most efficient charities in the United States for keeping fund-raising and operation costs low while meeting mission goals.